An Overview of Helsinki
I had a day to spend in Helsinki, or rather a few hours. Helsinki was a port during a cruise that I was working on, and fortunately I had the day off to go exploring. So, this post will be perfect for you, if you happen to be on a Baltic cruise.
Cruise ships arrive in various harbors, so it's hard to give you exact directions on getting downtown. However, public transportation is accessible, and most major cruise lines offer a shuttle service for either free, or a minimal charge.
The shuttle bus that I took dropped us off on the Esplanade, a park in the center of a boulevard. My mother happened to be traveling with me, so we strolled down to the market square on the harbor front. We were pleasantly surprised to find several food stalls mixed in the produce and souveniurs.
We enjoyed looking at the beautiful berries and mounds of vegetables. But...we didn't just look for long. We settled on purchasing a pint of the largest raspberries I've ever seen and a couple of savory filled crepes. Another bonus about the market square? These food stalls also have tables and chairs set up for the patrons to dine at.
After filling our tummies, we followed the self-guided walk of Helsinki in the guidebook I brought along. Our first stop was looking up at the Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral, built when Finland belonged to Russia. We skipped going inside due to time constraints.
Next up was Senate Square, recognizable by the huge staircase leading up to the white Lutheran Cathedral with it's green dome. We ran into one of my ship colleagues on those steps, who recommended we head over to the market square for some "local foods like hot dogs." We giggled and giggled...not realizing he meant we should sample a "reindeer" hotdog.
After peeking inside the cathedral, we continued our walk to Stockmann department store. My sole reasoning for stopping in...was before leaving, I had spoken with a friend who had lived in Helsinki for a couple years. He told me that I must visit the basement of the store that housed a gourmet food hall. He also highly recommended that I purchase Karl Fazer chocolate there. Someone mentions a nationally beloved chocolate? I'll comply.
We purchased some chocolate and continued to walk towards the train station and then veered left and walked several blocks to the Temppeliaukio Church (aka..."Rock Church"). This church was the last thing on my list to see, and sadly, due to a closure for a special event, I wasn't able to go inside. What makes this church unique is that it is inside the blasted out rock, creating a cave.
By then, my time in Helsinki was nearing its close. We had a bit of a walk to get back to the shuttle stop. The one downfall to me for recommending a Baltic cruise, is that you are limited in the time you spend in the cities. However, it's also a wonderful way to explore the region and get a taste of the different ports so you can determine if there's a place you'd like to come back and see more of.
As a crew member, I loved the Baltic itinerary because these ports were port cities. There wasn't an extensive amount of travel involved (wasting our precious time) to get to in to see the sites. I thought Helsinki was a beautiful city and surprisingly, one of my favorites on the voyage. But I will definitely need to go back...